Marriage is the ultimate mark of trust: your partner is the person you trust the most in this world, your shelter from the storm. Which is why any sort of betrayal within a marriage is so devastating—and why such betrayals are often the bread and butter of thrillers and mysteries. In the five thrillers listed here, the inciting incident isn’t a murder or a bomb going off—it’s the discovery that someone’s partner isn’t at all what they seemed.
Gone Without a Trace, by Mary Torjussen
Accountant Hannah Monroe leaves work flush with success: she’s just been promoted, and can’t wait to celebrate with her boyfriend Matt. But when she gets home, Matt is not just gone—he’s cleared out all of his possessions, canceled his phone, and quit his job. It’s not surprising that Hannah begins to fall apart spectacularly, becoming obsessed with finding him. Her work suffers, and soon her career is in shambles and her personal life disappears as she focuses more and more on the search for answers. When she starts to think someone has been in the apartment when she’s gone—and when she begins to receive text messages from unknown numbers—we start to feel the same panic and uncertainty as she does. Torjussen twists the rope to the breaking point until the final, unexpected reveal, smartly focusing on how destructive a secret can be.
The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarity
Moriarity weaves together three stories that involve secrets and lies, and partners lying to each other and to other people. Ultimately a study in the acidic effect of deception in a relationship, it begins when Cecilia discovers a letter written by her husband, marked to be read only in the event of his death. How could any spouse resist? What she reads in that letter changes her life and her marriage, bringing into question the value of knowing your partner’s secrets in the first place. What, Moriarity seems to ask on every page, is gained by knowing something that happened before you met your spouse, your girlfriend, your boyfriend? Is knowing automatically better than ignorance? The answers the characters come to may not be your answers, but the journey to them is gripping, and filled with twists and turns.
The Hand That Feeds You, by A.J. Rich
Rich’s absorbing thriller opens with a horrific death: psychology student Morgan, studying how people allow themselves to become victims, returns home to find her fiancé, Bennett, dead—apparently mauled to death by her three rescue dogs. Pet owners will immediately be heartbroken by the idea of your beloved pets being responsible for something that horrifying, and Morgan finds she can’t believe it. As she fights to keep the dogs from being put down, she begins to discover that Bennett wasn’t at all who she thought she was. Bewildered about how she, of all people, could be a victim, she discovers he was engaged to other women—one of whom was recently murdered. The swiftness with which Morgan’s life falls to pieces underscores how quickly we install our partners as the structural support beams of our lives, and how willing we are to overlook red flags when the possibility of a stable, loving relationship comes our way.
You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz
One often-ignored aspect of a supposedly happy marriage is the smugness that people feel, the belief that their marriage works because they’ve done everything right. As Korelitz’s story opens, Grace Sachs is living the ideal life: happily married to a successful doctor, raising a great son, about to publish a self-help book that’s sure to be a huge hit. Her book is all about how women need to take control of their relationships, do the due diligence—that they should have seen the warning signs that doomed their relationships. When a violent murder leads Grace to realize her perfect husband has been lying to her—and for a long time—her whole life begins to fall apart, one perfectly manicured detail at a time. Don’t feel too bad as you enjoy every moment of her comeuppance, even as the tension and fear mount.
The Daylight Marriage, by Heidi Pitlor
We’ve all seen those romantic comedies where the beautiful, impossibly charming woman realizes that the quiet, unassuming man is The One, and leaves behind the dashing leading-man type to be with him. Pitlor’s novel is an exploration of what happens after the credits rolled. Hannah is beautiful and smart, and was kind of spoiled by her wealthy parents. When a handsome, rich boyfriend goes sour on her, she impulsively married Lovell—quiet, brainy, and introspective. After two children and more than a decade of marriage, their love has withered into a loveless, sexless, airless relationship. Then one morning Hannah vanishes—and Lovell and their children must face the worst possibilities while wrestling with the bigger issues her disappearance brings into the light. As Lovell tries to hold his family together and deal with his intense feelings, the mystery of what really happened to Hannah spins out with delightful tension.